The moment in which one is "about to forget" is also the moment in which one remembers. As the title of Berni Searle's exhibition suggests, this work looks at the intermediate space of memory where a sense of return and a sense of loss are simultaneously invoked. The process of forgetting entwines both the presence and absence of memory, and, in between, a series of gradually fading after-images of people and events that linger in the mind.
Searle uses a handful of small black and white photographs of three generations of her family as the point of departure for a metaphoric and poetic reflection on a fractured past. Grandparents, parents, siblings and friends appear and disappear in the photographs because Searle's family, like many of its time, was divided by internal schisms around religious differences as well as by contradictory acts of racial classification and reclassification. Over the years, contact between individuals was severed: a matriarch cut off contact with her daughter, sisters were isolated and divided, siblings were separated and only saw each other rarely.
In Searle's video installation and prints, silhouettes of groups of family members in the photographs, cut out of red crêpe paper, float in warm water. Their colour bleeds as the water ebbs and flows, the figures become transparent and residual, and the structured and defined shapes slowly losing their form amidst the swirls of red ink. Our personal associations with this elegiac and enigmatic imagery are myriad.
Cape Town born and based, Searle graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art with a Master's degree in 1995. In 2005, Searle has been selected to exhibit at the 51st Venice Biennale in June, on the exhibition Always a little further, curated by Biennale co-director Rosa Martinez. In September she will exhibit a selection of video works at the BildMuseet in Umeå, Sweden. And in November the USF Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa, Florida, will host a solo museum show of new commissioned work. As part of this exhibition, Searle will work with the Graphicstudio, a distinguished artist workshop at the University of South Florida, to create editioned prints. She is also included on a group exhibition, A Kind of Magic - The Art of Transforming at the Museum of Art, Lucerne, Switzerland, running from August to November.
About to forget